“I had many opportunities to go somewhere else but I care for this club and its future.”
“Me too, Arsène. Me too.”
That’s how the conversations about loyalty will be going from now on in the Arsenal boardroom. The Times this morning carries the claim that Ivan is a man in demand with, (takes deep breath) a whole raft of MSL clubs keen on his services, a belief that Gazidis could replace Sunil Gulati as the US Soccer Federation president, and, heading up the 2026 Pole Vaulting World Cup in the USA! USA! USA!, the place south of the Trump Wall and the place north of the Trudeau Wall.
Should we be careful what we wish for in this case as well? Heaven forbid we might get a CEO who can manage the manager. Not that it will happen, of course. It’s a cushy number for any executive or director at Arsenal so why give it up but you’ll probably find Stan will leave the appointment of Gazidis’ successor to Wenger.
Arsène doesn’t have time for such trivialities; he’s whipping the lads into shape ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup semi-final with Manchester City. This time though, he’s under less pressure than in 2014, which I understand to some extent. While the pressure from the stands is greater, against Hull we were looking to right the wrongs of the previous decade. A trophyless run was surely ending and Arsenal were overwhelming favourites to lift the Cup.
Tomorrow, City are favourites by whichever method you choose as a benchmark. Wenger may have the experience of semi-finals but Guardiola’s team are in better form. They are as fragile as us at times at the back and playing Giroud makes sense if the plan is to put their hapless ‘keeper under pressure.
United We Stand, Divided We’re Lumbered
Arsène demands that the players come together now and play their way out of the poor run of form. I guess the flipside of that is a battering tomorrow could send us spiralling into the Europa League play-offs, just as a time when Manchester United seem to be there for the taking.
However, Wenger is determined that the players will not give up easily:
“When you have negative results like we had it can divide or unite.
“At some stage you have to show you can fight together. Even if people will say it’s normal you win at Middlesbrough, when you go through a bad period it is difficult in your head to win everywhere.
“The best way to win is first to show that you can fight again. People questioned our fighting spirit, rightly so. We had to show again that we can fight together.
“You know as well when the team fights and doesn’t do well it creates even more uncertainty. The fact they did fight and did win had a positive impact.”
You can’t argue with what he says; Arsène always talks a good game.
Getting the players to deliver is another matter. The usual flakiness is appearing late season and that says something about the manager’s methods. Ian Wright Wright Wright laid it out in yesterday’s Arsecast that Wenger doesn’t tolerate shouting at the players and slaps down his assistants when they step over the line.
In a team of strong characters that works; the players sort themselves out. With the current squad of pleasant young men, ‘tearing them a new one’ as the quaint colloquialism goes, is what they need. If they don’t respond to it, they don’t have the motivation.
Which Wright suggested they lack due to the mollycoddling and cash they get from a young age.
Putting The Frighteners On Flash, Little Twerps
None of this generation – or those to come for that matter – will have it as hard as previous apprentices. Cleaning boots, sweeping terraces; they all have it done for them. Nowadays, it’s more important to assess a player’s character, to understand their motivation. Any manager who doesn’t understand what makes the individual tick, renders the player impotent when the going gets tough.
And tomorrow will be tough, no two ways about it.
In the past, I’d have fancied our chances of causing an upset in this situation but the defeats against Bayern, Chelsea and Liverpool chased the belief that we will win in big matches out of me. I’d love us to win the FA Cup; I’m of the generation which still has a romantic attachment to the trophy. It’s sheen may be dulled but there’s still something special about it.
The Premier League and the Champions League killed its importance as a major trophy to players but when we remember watching the ’79 final or Andy Linighan’s header thunder past Chris Woods, you can’t help but love the trophy. And seeing us outplay City and then either of Chelsea or Spurs? It would be fantastic. I just don’t expect it to happen.
That’s it for today unless you believe Arda Turan is in talks with the club or that Juventus want Szczesny. That’s an interesting thought. The Italian champions think he’s good enough for them, a team on the cusp of the Champions League final – and beating Monaco is no easy task – but at Arsenal, he wasn’t good enough. That speaks volumes about the coaching at Arsenal.
Let’s not even get into the practising set-pieces. I mean, really Mesut. Really?